Congressmen consistently let their constituents down. Congressional approval ratings are at a low, and the first step to fixing it is implementing congressional term limits. Reducing the incredibly high incumbency rate would allow other people to be represented with equal chances in their districts during an election. There must be a provision put in place to hold these legislators responsible for their lack of actions.
While term limits were briefly considered when creating the Constitution, James Madison suggested in Federalist Paper 53 that it takes time for people to understand the federal system once they occupy a congressional seat, therefore if new people are continuously coming in and replacing others, there will be a clear lack of experience within Congress. Madison also reassures the reader by saying that these people may be able to serve repeatedly, but the citizens’ rights and freedoms are protected due to the limits of power that Congress has.
Nowadays, the fear of inexperience is no longer a make-or-break concern. Political parties and modern training resources can easily give a new congressperson the practical skills needed to do a job. Representing the interests of his or her community is not a task that needs much explaining.
After midterm elections in 2016, the rates of incumbency were dramatic. House representatives experienced a 97 percent incumbency rate, while senators had a rate of 93 percent. Though these numbers are actually higher than the overall average incumbency rate, these figures should still be considered problematic to voters.
Due to high incumbency, opportunities for new faces and ideas are rare. According to the U.S. Census, during the 2014 midterm elections, only 42 percent of eligible voters actually cast a ballot. People often abstain from voting due to a lack of name recognition or because midterm elections are perceived as less important than presidential elections. According to PewResearch Center, the United States actually has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the world. Thus, an incumbent is naturally given the upper hand to defend their congressional seat for multiple years.
New candidates also face difficulties with funding. As incumbents seek reelection, their franking privileges grant them a greater reach to acquire more funding and donations, giving them an extra boost compared to their fellow candidates.
There is also a widening divide between people now strictly voting for people representing their parties in midterm elections, rather than someone that has the same beliefs as the voter. From the voters’ perspective, it looks like it has come strictly down to Democrats versus Republicans, and whoever can control Congress with the most seats is the winner. This is a very unhealthy mindset, because not only does this prohibit the way congressional votes are conducted, but it creates an unnecessary gridlock within the government due to partisan opinions.
A great number of congresspeople go into their seats boasting about how they will stick to their ideas and promises and will represent their constituents better than the people that held their spots in the past. As these men and women continue further into their terms, it seems that most of them become corrupt. These people become beholden to certain donors and PACs due to the financial aid they receive; thus only leading them to promise tax breaks and other incentives. Therefore, congresspeople have low approval ratings because they do not act on what their people actually want.
This kind of career should not be seen as an opportunity to solely represent a political stance, but instead as an act of service to one’s country. Creating term limits would make it easier to remove people who spend several terms in office and develop dark political ties that only benefit themselves. The positions these people hold should be held to a higher standard, and we as a population should elect people who deserve to sit in those seats and represent their district or state’s beliefs. The congressional approval rating sits around 16 percent, and congressmen should be treated just like any other employee who don’t do their jobs well. The public should wake up and push useless congresspeople out of office.
– Katelyn Moriarty is a political science sophomore